"The Kiltie" by Eben Farrington Comins

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About

This wonderful portrait of a young man in New Brunswick Kilties uniform during World War I is both great art and an important historical artifact. Painted by Eben Farrington Comins (1875–1949), it was exhibited at the winter show of the National Academy of Design in New York City in 1918 and later in Los Angeles. It was used in war bond posters and was turned into numbered prints and engravings which have been and are still widely circulated, but this is the original painting – believed to have come from the artist’s private collection. It is a real gem, still in its original frame, with excellent patina.
Born in Boston, MA, Comins studied in Boston with Tarbell and continued in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. His career took him all-over the United States, from New England to California, and there are records of his exhibitions at a variety of venues. He was highly sought-after as a portrait artist; his subjects included multiple Supreme Court justices and a Yale President as well as numerous bankers, prominent clergy, businessmen, society women and the not-so famous. His work can be found today in the MFA (Boston), the Nat'l Portrait Gallery (Washington, DC), the Supreme Court’s collection, the Harvard University Collection; Davis Museum at Wellesley College; and Yale University Collection, among others.
The subject of the painting is also known, because his name is written on the back in what appears to be the artist’s hand: Gerald (Folsom) Howard. He was born in 1899 in Lakeview, Maine, and enlisted in 1916 in the 236th Battalion (New Brunswick Kilties), Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was a 17-year-old student in Waltham, MA at the time of enlistment. His discharge record from the Canadian Archives, which is included with the sale, provides additional insights into his life and his time in the military.
The three-quarter-length portrait is very compelling. The artist has captured his subject’s handsome face in wonderful skin color, and surrounded him with all the accoutrements of his regiment: the Canadian flag to the left, Signal flags to the right (he was a signalman), the unit’s trademark kilt (tartan is Maclean of Duart dress tartan), his smart jacket and belt with so much detail that even the regiment number is legible, and topped with a jauntily-angled kepi with feather. Based on the dates, it was painted just before Howard was shipped through U-boat-infested waters to Britain. It is signed upper right with the artist’s initials in monogram form and the date “1917”.

Details

  • Period
    Early 20th Century
  • Materials and Techniques
    Canvas
    Oil Paint
  • Condition
    Excellent. Painting cleaned about 10 years ago -- old repairs on painting -- minor repairs on frame..
  • Wear
    Wear consistent with age and use
  • Dimensions
    44.5 in. H x 36.5 in. W x 3 in. D
    113 cm H x 93 cm W x 8 cm D
  • Seller Location
    Alexandria, VA
  • Number of Items
    1
  • Reference Number
    1312268699667
About the Seller

1stdibs seller since 2009

Typical response time: 3 hours

Located in Alexandria, VA

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